An Accolade Quite Blasé

Author: scheherezhad
LJ: http://scheherezhad.livejournal.com/
Email: scheherezhad@yahoo.com
For: v_voltaire
Requested characters used: Ricochet/Johnny Gallo (Slingers)
Slight AU, set during Johnny's senior year of college. Title from "Satinlady Blues" by Sekou Sundiata.


Illustration provided by Goss.

Working at a video store to help put himself through college isn't the most glamourous gig, but Johnny's gotten used to that. He's done the glamour thing, too, now, and it ain't all it's cracked up to be. It takes a lot more work than the average schlub realizes to put on a costume and go save a city full of strangers night after night.

For one, there's that whole secret identity thing that Johnny never liked (and was never any good at, if you have stick-up-the-ass Heroing Standards like Ritchie did). He doesn't know how the big-name heroes do it, how they keep their work and their civilian lives separate. Hell, he'd almost blown it with Kathy on one of his first times out. He's always wished he could've been "Johnny Gallo, the hero known as Ricochet," had even thought about ditching the mask early on.

Probably the only things that kept it on him were the team and his...abilities. It's okay for Ricochet to have mutant powers—he's a hero. Heroes are supposed to be larger-than-life and have all kinds of cool powers. It's really, really not okay for Johnny Gallo to be anything other than human.

But Johnny isn't Ricochet anymore. His days are still filled with classes and studying, and his nights don't get any more exciting than the occasional customer running into the store just before closing, hoping to avoid late fees on their rentals.

He doesn't even get that tonight, though. He's already locked up the store and balanced the register, and now he's shelving the last batch of returns. He's sticking Tomb Raider back on the 'new releases' rack when someone knocks on the door. Johnny ignores it because they can't see him from this angle, but they knock again.

"We're closed. Drop it in the overnight slot," he calls.

"It's me, Rico. Let me in, dammit!"

Eddie.

Johnny jogs over to the counter and grabs the keys, and he can see Eddie huddling into his coat under the light snow flurries. He unlocks the door slowly, making a production of it. 'Search the keyring, examine some keys, find the right one, slide it into the lock. Watch Eddie flip him the bird, smirk, twist the key.'

"Jesus, it's cold out there!" Eddie says, shoving the door open as soon as Johnny pulls the key back out. "Think you could've made me wait a little longer?"

"Hey, I can still throw your ass back out in the snow," Johnny replies. He relocks the door while Eddie takes off his coat and gloves and scarf, which happens to be the scarf that Johnny thought he lost a week ago. "The hell, man? That's mine."

Not that he minds *that* much, but it's the principle of the thing.

Eddie mumbles something and looks anywhere but at Johnny.

"What was that?"

"I said I took it because it smelled like you." Eddie glares at him over his glasses.

Johnny takes his scarf back and sniffs before he sets it on the counter. There's a hint of his own cologne still there, but mostly it smells like Eddie, now. He kinda gets the appeal. "You're such a girl," Johnny says, but he pulls Eddie in and kisses him.

Eddie is definitely not a girl.

He pushes Johnny back against the counter, leans into him, and takes over. They've been feeling out this relationship for a few months, now, and for all that Eddie is the sappy, romantic one, he can get pretty aggressive when they fool around. Sex is the relationship equivalent of the Hornet suit for him. And Johnny, well, he doesn't have any complaints. Just because they don't fight crime anymore doesn't mean the Ricochet costume hasn't been out of the closet a few times. Eddie has a thing for the boots.

He's also a great kisser, which Johnny is really appreciating right about now. Especially when Eddie licks his tongue, then bites his bottom lip a little. He uses his good hand to pull Johnny's hips in against his own, and that leads to a lot of extra groping. It makes Johnny want to do things he really shouldn't do while they're still in Flix and any jerk on the street can see them through the door.

Johnny pulls back just enough so he can bite that spot on Eddie's neck that gets him all hot and bothered, and he says, "Eddie?"

"Wha?" He's tugging Johnny's shirt out of his jeans and stroking along the skin just above the waistband.

"I really want you..."

"Uh-huh..." His hand splays over the small of Johnny's back, and he nuzzles Johnny's throat.

"...to help me finish shelving."

Eddie jerks back and glares at him again. "You're such an ass. I'm not helping you."

"Aw, come on, Eddie. Please? The sooner I'm done, the sooner we can go back to my place," Johnny wheedles.

"No."

"Not even if I wear the boots later?"

"N-um." Eddie's eyes sort of glaze over. He's lost in thought for a minute, then he nods. "Okay."

Johnny grins. "Great. Now these," he says, pointing Eddie at a stack of movie boxes, "go on that rack there, in alphabetical order."

He smacks Eddie on the ass and hightails it to another section.



Between the two of them, it only takes ten minutes to finish putting up all the movies. When they put their coats on, Johnny magnanimously allows Eddie to keep his scarf, which earns him a shy smile. He hums as he arms the security system, and they step out into the snow. They'll have to walk a couple of blocks to catch the bus and then a few more from the bus to his house, but Johnny doesn't mind so much. His dad is working third shift this week, which means he can bring Eddie over for the night, and that totally makes up for the walk in the cold.

Hell, Eddie's always been worth a long walk in the snow. He's a good guy, and even in the beginning, when he had Kathy and Eddie liked Cassie, there was something between them. They'd just gotten closer after they gave up being heroes. Eddie was there for him when he broke up with Kathy, and he was there for Eddie when he got shot down by the hot librarian. Then they'd gotten drunk in Eddie's dorm room after hell week, junior year. They'd ended up making out in Eddie's bed and...really not regretting it in the morning.

Sort of like they'd both been waiting for it to happen.

Johnny wonders if he should stay home next weekend or go up to the McDonoughs' place for Thanksgiving. Eddie's parents are cool, and unlike Johnny's dad, they're totally okay with the fact that their son is seeing another guy. His dad tries, but Johnny can always tell he's uncomfortable when Eddie's over.

At the bus stop, they stand maybe a little closer than 'just friends' but not close enough to make anybody nervous. It's early enough that there are plenty of people around, mostly late workers and bar hoppers, but it's late enough that they still have to be careful. Leading a double life left both of them with a healthy sense of paranoia. Never know when some asshole will decide he needs to prove his manhood.

Johnny watches the falling snow for a few minutes before he almost jumps out of his skin. His danger sense is going off something fierce. He looks around as covertly as he can, but something really bad is going down nearby. He gets a chill up his spine when he focuses on an alley a few buildings down. There. His leg jerks in that direction before he can stop himself.

"Johnny?" Eddie looks worried but alert.

"Alley," he says. "Something bad."

They share a look, and they agree: gotta check it out.

Just because they don't fight crime anymore doesn't mean they can turn their backs on somebody who's in trouble.

Carefully, trying not to draw attention from any of the other people at the bus stop, they edge away and head for the alley. Eddie's got his cell phone out, ready to call 911. Johnny flexes his hands and wishes he had his discs. The whole suit would be even better, but Ricochet randomly showing up here after three years would raise too many questions.

They hit the mouth of the alley, and Johnny presses up against the wall, shoving Eddie back behind him. He takes a deep breath, then looks around the corner.

Yeah, it's bad.

There's a big guy with a knife standing over a woman in her nightgown, talking low and menacing. The lady's ankles and wrists are bound with duct tape, and there's a piece over her mouth, too. A little boy in pajamas is crying next to a dumpster. He's bleeding from a cut on his forehead.

Johnny's fingers twitch toward his sleeve, reaching for a disc that's not there, and he curses silently. That's when the kid sees him and starts to crawl over.

"Where you goin', Davey? Daddy's not done talkin' to Mommy yet," the big guy says.

Which gives Johnny all of about two seconds to grab a broken brick off the ground and say, "Yeah, you are," as he steps out where the guy can see him.

Daddy flips his knife around and takes a run at Johnny.

"Davey, run," Johnny calls. "Eddie, get the kid out of here!" He throws the brick as hard as he can, praying it'll make contact. It's been too long since he's done the hero gig. He gets lucky, though, 'cause the brick hits the guy square in the eye.

It makes him drop his knife and fall to his knees. Bright blood streams through the fingers of the hand he's holding to his face. Johnny risks a glance backward and sees Eddie on the sidewalk with the kid, phone tucked between his ear and shoulder as he tries to talk to the emergency dispatcher and check Davey over at the same time. That's one less thing to worry about, so Johnny gets in close enough to land a kick on Daddy's head. He hears a definite crunch as the guy's nose breaks under his heel.

The mom is cowering against the wall, whimpering under the tape gag. Johnny grabs the guy's knife off the ground so he can cut her free, but he misjudged how much pain the guy is feeling, or maybe just how smart the guy is. A hand wraps around his ankle and jerks, yanking Johnny off his feet. He hits the grimy ground hard.

"You're messin' with the wrong guy, punk," Daddy growls.

"Funny, I was about to say the same thing," Johnny huffs.

They start grappling, and Daddy pins him. A crushing grip on his wrist makes him drop the knife. As his head slams into the concrete a couple of times, Johnny wishes he'd made Ritchie teach him a few wrestling moves back in the day. The best he can do now is buck and twist and try to get the guy off of him, land a few punches if he can.

Daddy makes the mistake of kneeling up for leverage, and Johnny manages to get a leg between them. He plants his foot in the guy's stomach and shoves hard. Daddy goes flying into the wall headfirst. He slides down it and lays there almost completely still, just his chest moving as he breathes.

"Fuck..." Johnny mumbles. His hands are shaking.

The knife is a few feet away, and he crawls over to it. He doesn't trust his legs just yet. Blade in hand, he makes his way back to the woman. She's slumped against the wall, crying and shivering.

"Just a sec, ma'am," Johnny says. He saws at the duct tape around her wrists until it gives, then pulls it off and starts on the tape around her ankles while she yanks the strip off of her mouth. As soon as he gets that out of the way, he backs off.

She follows, though, throwing her arms around him and sobbing into his chest. "Thank you, thank you... Oh, god, where's my David?"

"He's safe, ma'am. He's with my friend Eddie." Johnny takes off his coat and puts it around her icy shoulders. "Why don't you go to him while I take care of this guy?" he suggests gently.

The woman lurches to her feet and dashes out of the alley. Johnny can hear her cry of relief when she finds her son.

Daddy is laying where Johnny left him, but Johnny isn't about to take any chances. He uses his scarf to hogtie the guy, then he staggers out to the sidewalk. Eddie's on him in a second.

"Jesus, Rico," he says, wrapping himself around Johnny. "You scared the hell out of me."

"I scared the hell outta me, too," Johnny mutters. He looks over Eddie's shoulder and sees Davey with his mother, both of them wrapped up in his coat. It's stopped snowing, too. Everyone's safe, he realizes.

"Johnny, you're bleeding!" Eddie yelps, touching the back of Johnny's head. When he pulls his hand back, there's blood smeared on his fingers.

"Eddie?"

"Yeah?"

"I think I need to sit down."



When the cops and ambulance and press arrive, Johnny and Eddie are sitting on the sidewalk, sharing Eddie's coat. Davey and his mom, Laine, are next to them on a crate. It was a noble sacrifice to let them have a seat, but nobility doesn't unfreeze Johnny's ass from the concrete. He'd better be getting some serious TLC later to make up for it. From the deathgrip Eddie's had on his hand this whole time, though, he's pretty sure that's a given.

They answer the cops' questions while a paramedic checks Johnny for a concussion. Then the officers move on to Laine and Davey, and someone brings Johnny his coat back. He shrugs into it carefully.

"Looks like you're okay," the paramedic tells him. "Your pupils are reacting fine, and you don't seem to be disoriented. Just take it easy for a while, okay?" he says as he closes his bag.

"Sure, man. Thanks."

"Excuse me, can I get a few words?"

Johnny is blinded by a camera flash, and he and Eddie spend the next few minutes fielding questions from a reporter. It's not as fun as he used to think it'd be, all those times he wished somebody would come interview Ricochet. When he fumbles, Eddie fields the improv answers, making up something to explain why they'd walked away from the bus stop and passed the alley at just the right time. Johnny decides to blame his own slowness on the head injury.

In any case, it turns out that Laine's ex-boyfriend had been released from prison a few days ago, and he was pissed that she wouldn't let him come see their son. He'd decided to take Davey away, instead. When Laine tried to stop him, he'd tied her up and dragged her into the alley to kill her. That was where Johnny and Eddie came in, and now they'll be in the morning paper. Two average joes save mother and young boy.

Laine comes up to them as soon as the reporter is gone. A blanket from the ambulance is draped over her shoulders. "Boys? I just wanted to thank you again. Here," she says, and she slides a scrap of paper into Johnny's hand. "I can't do much to repay you, but I'd like to make you dinner some night. If you hadn't come by..." She trails off, looking back at Davey, who's playing with one of the cops.

He came out okay, except for that gash on his forehead. And the emotional damage of watching his father try to kill his mother, which Johnny doesn't want to think about.

"We'd like that, ma'am," Eddie says.

She hugs them both quickly. "You're our heroes."

Eddie looks at him, and they're both thinking back to nights in masks, the wild joy of flying over the city.

Johnny nods and squeezes Laine's hand briefly. "We're just glad you're both safe."

When he was a kid, his mother used to tell him he was special. When he was Ricochet, he used to wish he didn't have to hide behind a mask to help people. When he quit the vigilante life, he'd thought he'd never get to save anybody again.

But tonight, Johnny Gallo is a big damn hero.